Thursday, October 30, 2014

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Evangelos Venizelos and his counterparts from the Egypt, Sameh Hassan Shoukry and Cyprus, Ioannis Kasoulides, held a trilateral meeting yesterday (29.10) - the third such meeting.

The three officials issued a joint communiqué, in which they "deplored the recent illegal actions perpetrated within Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EΕΖ)," including unauthorised surveys for hydrocarbons by a Turkish vessel, and called on Turkey to "cease all seismic survey operations underway within the maritime zones of Cyprus and refrain from similar activity in the future." They urge Turkey to "respect the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Cyprus Republic over its EΕΖ."

One of the main purposes of the meeting was to prepare a Cyprus, Egypt and Greece trilateral meeting to take place at Heads of State/Government level on November 8 in Cairo. Issues of mutual interest, including recent developments on the Cyprus issue, the political transition in Egypt, and the regional impact of developments in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, ISIL/extremism threat, Libya, Gaza, MEPP) were also discussed.

See also Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Joint Communiqué (29.10.2014)

Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble met yesterday (29.10) on the sidelines of the OECD Global Forum in Berlin. The two officials discussed the era after the end of the bailout programme and the search for a mutually accepted solution for the "next day" in Greece.

They agreed on entering a new era, both in bilateral relations and between the European partners as a whole. In addition, Hardouvelis emphasized the understanding of the German side and appeared confident that Berlin intends to help Athens, as it desires a strong Greece and a strong Euro.

Greece improved its ranking in the World Bank's report title "Doing Business 2015, Going Beyond Efficiency," released on October 29. The report said that Greece ranked 61st in terms of engaging in business activity, from 65th in the 2014 report, among 189 countries in total. The report noted that a total of 21 reforms were implemented, facilitating business activity in the period 2013-2014.

A key factor in improving Greece’s position is the reduction in bureaucratic requirements and in the cost of starting a business, mainly thanks to the introduction of the "One-Stop Shop" service, as well as the decrease in starting capital requirements and the introduction of private capital companies, known as one-euro companies.

Greece has climbed 48 spots since the 2010 report, according to the Doing Business 2015 chart, but it still has some way to go in terms of making entrepreneurship easier as the country ranks near the bottom among European Union member states.

Greek exports have profited from a slump in the euro exchange rate against the U.S. dollar. As a result, Greek exports to third countries have surged. In particular, the boom concerns products mostly sold in the Balkans and Turkey. An average of 60% of Greek beverages and 58% of Greek tobacco find their way to markets outside the EU. The same applies to minerals (75%), raw materials (80%), refined petroleum products (88%), industrial products (55%), machinery and equipment (57%). The food industry has also gained momentum; 65% of Greek meat products and almost all livestock (95%) are directed to countries outside the EU.

Nevertheless, while the change in currency prices has made some Greek products more competitive, Greek agricultural products must cover a lot of ground inside the EU, if they want to compete with exporting giants such Spain, which covers 20% of total EU agricultural products sold to third countries, and Italy (10%). For the record, EU countries dominate the global agricultural market, since they have 75% of the global market share.

Many tourists who vacation in Greece are impressed and wish to return again and again. The Ministry of Development & Competitiveness has recently reported that foreign demand for Greek real estate property has surged. Whether for traditional stone houses or sea front apartments and villas on the islands of Mykonos and Santorini, the increased demand is expected to bring in investments worth nearly €200 million, and that is only for 2014. Buyers’ nationality varies but the data show particular interest from Russia, China, Egypt, Ukraine, Lebanon and the United States. Among the most popular locations are the Cyclades, Crete, Rhodes and Corfu.

There are many reasons behind the boom. First, there is the fact that tourists themselves, who visit Greece once, wish to return or even settle. Second, the government has enacted laws which give residence permits to citizens of third countries (non-EU countries) for investments which exceed €250,000. Moreover, Greek property prices have dropped by as much as 40%, while at the same time, property-sales related tax breaks have been introduced. In any case, the real estate boom has created a momentum which will eventually favour as many as 40,000 Greek country houses waiting for their new owner to come.